About this time last summer, I sat sweating on the side of the highway, cursing the mechanic who, mere days earlier, had given my Corolla a once-over because the “check engine” light had come on. He’d rattled off a list of minor repairs that could be made, but he couldn’t be certain any of them would correct the random misfire that had triggered the check engine light in the first place. The list of repairs was long and expensive, and gave the impression that he really couldn’t identify the problem but was hoping I’d empty my savings account in his shop in an effort to solve the mystery. Still, I trusted him when he told me none of the repairs needed to happen immediately. After all, my car wasn’t in perfect condition, but its few problems were “nothing that’ll leave you stranded on the side of the road.”
He used those exact words. I remember because they replayed themselves over and over again in my mind a few days later when my car up and died and left my pregnant self stranded on the side of the road.
My sister-in-law came to pick me up in her beautifully air-conditioned car, and later that day Tim stood sweating under the hood of my car replacing O-rings in the fuel injector. (Do you like how I just rattled that off as if I have any idea what it means?) It was a long, hot day, but eventually my car started again, and Tim was able to take it to a (different) mechanic who examined Tim’s handiwork and proclaimed my car was once again in good working condition. Hooray for my handyman husband!
However, the damage was done. Every day after that, I spent every driving minute wondering when my car was going to stop working again. I over analyzed every slightly unusual noise, every atypical sputter from the engine, every brief hesitation between the time my foot hit the gas pedal and when the car actually moved forward. I no longer trusted my car. It’s not a good feeling any time, but it’s especially not a good feeling when you’re mere months away from driving a baby all around town in said car.
But, we’d just bought a house, and we had a new baby on the way. It wasn’t exactly the best time to add a car payment to our budget. Besides, the car was still running fine, despite my paranoia, so we kept our fingers crossed that the car would hang on for awhile longer and tried to stop worrying about it.
As the months went on, however, the car’s minor issues became harder and harder to ignore.
The driver’s side window stopped working. (No problem; Tim swapped the motor with the one in the back door. None of our backseat passengers [baby and dogs] needed to roll down a window, and they probably didn’t mind that much that it was permanently stuck in a just-barely-open position.)
The engine started burning oil. (No problem; when the usually quiet engine starts to sound like a motorcycle, remind Tim to pour another quart of oil in to quiet it back down for a couple of weeks.)
The car trembled at any speed above 60mph. (No problem; just think of the vibrating steering wheel as a relaxing hand massage for the duration of your 2-hour road trip to Ft. Collins.)
The “check engine” light came on again. (No problem; just take it to the auto parts store, use their device to determine that it’s just another random misfire, turn the light off, and carry on.)
The light came on again. And again. And again. It got to the point where it was constantly on for months on end.
You guys, we tried like hell to get that car to hang on. We took it to a good friend who is a trustworthy mechanic to make sure nothing Major and Scary was going on under the hood. We kept pouring more oil in it whenever it dried up. But in the end, it became clear that the time had come to retire the old Corolla and get a new, more reliable car.
Enter, The Mommy Mobile:
Isn’t it pretty?
It’s a 2009 Prius, and it’s wonderful.
I could take you through the whole boring process of how we decided to get a Prius, but what it boils down to is this: I wanted a hatchback with more cargo room and more roomy/comfortable seating than my old car. I wanted people to be able to sit comfortably in the backseat with the carseat in place. I was extremely spoiled by my Corolla’s gas mileage (27-30mpg in town, 35mpg highway) and was not interested in anything that did not have good fuel efficienty. I wanted it to be reliable and safe. I wanted it to be cute.
The Prius fits all of these criteria. It’s roomy — oh, so roomy! — on the inside, with loads of room for people, dogs, babies, etc. Being a hybrid, it gets killer gas mileage (48mpg in town, you guys). It’s super safe, super reliable, and super cute. I love it.
Can I also just take a minute to tell you how much I loved buying a car from Carmax? I promise I’m not being compensated in any way for writing this (Ha! As if I would have enough readers to warrant a sponsored post! Right.), but it was such a good car-buying experience. When we first started car shopping, we went to the Toyota dealership to test drive a few cars and evaluate our options, and the whole process was ridiculous. We sat in the sales room for hours with a fussy baby while they held my Corolla key hostage so they could “evaluate” it and determine the trade-in value. They were purportedly having a Huge! Sales! Event! which, somehow, didn’t seem to apply at all to the car we were considering. Both the trade-in value they offered for my Corolla was a complete joke, and and the interest rate they offered for the financing on the new car was ridiculously high, especially for two people with excellent credit. When we finally wrestled the Corolla key out of the salesman’s hands, we walked out of there feeling frustrated and defeated.
Our experience at Carmax, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. The salesman wasn’t pushy at all. (Okay, he did push us ever so slightly to purchase the extended warranty, which we declined, but then later he apologized. For being too pushy! When he was hardly pushy at all! And he told us he respected our decision! It was surreal, in the most refreshing way.) They gave us a reasonable trade-in value on the Corolla — four times the amount Toyota offered us. And the interest rate on the amount we had to finance? SUPER low. Tim was over there having the Corolla appraised and checking out the Prius while I was at work, and as soon as he saw the interest rate he called me and told me to get my ass over there and bring the checkbook. It was too good a deal to pass up. There was no haggling. No sitting around trapped in the sales room while mysterious things happened behind closed doors. It was a very pleasant, straightforward transaction, and we drove away in the new Prius feeling confident in our decision. When Tim’s car needs to be replaced (hopefully several years down the road), Carmax will be the first place we go.
But enough about that. Have I mentioned how much I love my new car? Because I really love it. It’s so nice not to constantly worry about ending up stranded on the side of the road. And also, it’s super cute. Win-win!